I’ll be honest: revision is not my favorite part of the writing process. (I like to think I did it right the first time, even though that’s clearly not the case.) draft is special because it occupies an interesting place in the literary journal scene. Instead of rewarding the polished version of stories and poems with publication, the journal rewards the process by which writers make their good work even better. There are only two pieces in the journal: a short story and an excerpt from a book of poetry. Each piece is presented in an interesting manner: the final version is presented on the recto of each page, directly facing the draft version on the verso.
Alicia Erian, who found great success with her novel Towelhead, offers her story “Standing Up To The Superpowers” for dissection. The story depicts an odd love triangle between college professor Fetko, student Beatrice, and her acquaintance, Shipley. Erian grabs your attention from the first line (of the revised version): “Beatrice told Shipley she would sleep with him, and then she passed out. When she awoke the next morning, he said he’d gone ahead without her.” A beat later, we learn that Beatrice is under Fetko’s orders to mess with the freshman’s head because he’s always speaking up in class and interrupting the professor’s flow.
Shipley and Beatrice forge a strange relationship; they continue seeing each other after she drops out of school. In the climax, Beatrice waits on Fetko and his wife in the clothing store where she works. The young woman learns a little bit about herself and reconsiders her friendship with Shipley. Perhaps the greatest benefit of the draft format is that the reader is invited to see Erian’s original intent for the ending of her story: a more definite resolution of the conflict between the young man and young woman.
The second half of this issue examines an excerpt of Donald Dunbar’s book of poetry, Eyelid Lick. As you might imagine from the title, Dunbar’s work is visceral and deals with form in a somewhat experimental manner. If this example is any indication, Dunbar is happy to reconsider his work and spends an admirable amount of time and thought on the revision process.
In a poem called “Unquote echo,” Dunbar considers life through an appropriately opaque lens: “You find some new fortune in between the light’s curve and blinking. Corporeal, edged, acoustic. Tied up to the bedposts, the way I use your eyelids is like it just occurred to us to ask us, want to have a kid together? But what can you use them for but suffering.” The rest of Dunbar’s work is equally challenging and rewarding.
Each piece is accompanied by an interview with its author. Erian and Dunbar are both interesting writers and have unique lessons to offer. The editors of draft go one step further to help writers. Pushcart nominee Hunter Liguore finishes the issue with a writing exercise inviting you to create a map for each story you write, allowing you to “fully imagine and then create” your new world.
The presentation of each piece creates an interesting dilemma. Should you read the story or poems before you check out the draft version, or should you alternate between versions? (Personally, I tried the latter before deciding upon the former.) Either way, draft invites you to think of a creative work as the product of a process. Many writers are stymied by the challenge of doing everything “right” the first time. This journal does a great public service, reminding us all that it’s okay to “make mistakes,” so long as you’re putting words on the page.